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Morgan Heritage

With their trademark meld of sweet, multi-part vocal harmonies, soulful melodies, and innovative roots rhythms, Morgan Heritage have been at the forefront of reggae music since 1994. Initially a recording octet, then a quintet, and then a trio, the group is composed of some of reggae vocalist Denroy Morgan's 29 children. They have been referred to as the "first family of reggae" -- the Marleys notwithstanding. Over three decades, Morgan Heritage have carved a uniquely individual, widely accessible sound that blends elements of roots reggae, lovers rock, soul, R&B, calypso, gospel, dub, and on occasion, funk and dancehall. They issued their MCA debut album, Miracle, in 1994, just months after making their first public appearance on the main stage at Jamaica's Reggae Sunsplash festival. 2001's More Teachings went to number six on the reggae charts. 2008's Mission in Progress spent 24 weeks on the charts after peaking at number one. 2015's Strictly Roots did even better; it not only went to number one but spent 44 weeks on the charts and took home a Grammy for Best Reggae Album. The group won another for 2017's Avrakedabra. In 2021, Morgan Heritage released Legacy, a 35-track set that compiled remastered versions of catalog singles and new material featuring collaborative appearances by Ziggy and Stephen Marley, Beres Hammond, Bounty Killer, Shaggy, Chronixx, and others. In 1991, eight of Denroy Morgan's 29 children began working in his Brooklyn studio on weekends. He had immigrated to the U.S. in 1961 and raised his family in Springfield, Massachusetts, where they still lived. He nurtured virtually all of his children in music. Their debut single, "Wonderful World," was produced by their father and released that same year. It was followed by the independently issued full-length Growing Up in 1992. Denroy arranged for them to make their first public appearance at the year's Reggae Sunsplash festival. Their performance was so impressive, MCA offered them a recording contract almost as soon as they left the stage. The group's label debut, Miracle, was issued before year's end and included guest spots by Nona Hendryx and Sly & Robbie, among others. Though Denroy was its executive producer, Morgan Heritage later disavowed the album, claiming it was too heavily weighted toward pop. While touring the Ivory Coast in 1995, Morgan Heritage rediscovered their musical roots. Toward the end of the year, the group traveled to Jamaica to cut their next album. Recording during the day with Lloyd "King Jammy" James and at night with Bobby "Digital" Dixon, the octet took a major stylistic leap forward. Five bandmembers -- Peter "Peetah" Morgan, Una Morgan, Roy "Gramps" Morgan, Nakhamyah "Lukes" Morgan, and Memmalatel "Mr. Mojo" Morgan -- decided to immigrate. Shortly after releasing Protect Us Jah, in 1997, Morgan Heritage became a quintet through natural attrition induced by the move. The smaller lineup issued the King Jammy-produced One Calling for Greensleeves in 1998, and drew abundant critical notice on both sides of the Atlantic for its rootsier sound. 1999's Don't Haffi Dread was co-produced by the band and Dixon; its self-written material reflected a far more spiritual world view. With 2001's More Teachings followed by a world tour, Morgan Heritage made their first Top Ten appearance on the Reggae Albums chart. The set spent six weeks on the list, peaking at number six, and they played the Van's Warped Tour with indie and punk bands. 2003's Three in One broadened their sound a bit and featured a guest appearance from alt-rockers Good Charlotte; it peaked at 13. 2005's Full Circle returned the band to the Top Ten, thanks in large part to its massive hit single "Tell Me How Come." After tours across the U.S., the Caribbean, and Europe, Morgan Heritage released Live: Another Rockaz Moment in 2006. 2008's Mission in Progress, driven by the singles "Raid Rootz Dance" and "Love You Right," became the group's first chart-topping album. It also included a sleeper dancefloor hit in the single "Faithful" that included a guest vocal appearance by sibling Laza (Otiyah Morgan). The set spent three months riding the charts. The Journey Thus Far in 2009 compiled their previous hit singles and reached number eight, spending a month on the Reggae Albums list. After two extended tours, Morgan Heritage took a well-deserved break. They returned to studio recording in 2012 with the four-track Top 20 EP The Return. 2013's Here Come the Kings, led by the hit radio single "Perfect Love Song," featured a guest appearance from Shaggy, and peaked at number two; it spent 14 weeks on the album charts. Morgan Heritage performed sold-out concerts virtually everywhere they traveled, across the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Shaggy returned to assist the group on 2015's Strictly Roots, which was released by the band's own label CTBC (Cool to Be Conscious). The album also featured appearances from J. Boog, Chronixx, Bobby Lee of SOJA, plus solo artist and son of Gramps Jemere Morgan. Strictly Roots hit the top spot on the reggae charts and the band took home the Grammy for Best Reggae Album in 2016. The 12-song set spent a whopping 44 weeks on the charts and remains the group's most successful album to date. It was a bittersweet achievement, however, as Una had to leave the group to address some serious health concerns. While ramping up for a global tour, Morgan Heritage began working on an album in studios from Nashville to Miami to Paris with a slew of co-producers. In 2017, they dropped the pre-release single "Reggae Night" (featuring DreZion), followed by the full-length Avrakedabra in May (Una's previously recorded backing vocals were included). Album track "One Family" featured guest spots from Ziggy and Stephen Marley. The set peaked at number three and spent 17 weeks on the list. Another single, "Pineapple Wine," was released as a remix EP in early 2018, featuring contributions from Cultura Profetica, Fiji, and Common Kings. Nakhamyah "Lukes" Morgan then departed for a solo career, leaving the group a trio. In 2019, Avrakedabra won the Grammy for Best Reggae Album. The band recorded 2019's Loyalty across several continents. The LP featured a slew of guest appearances from Jeff Koinange, StoneBwoy, Patoranking, Esh Morgan, Kojo Antwi, and others. It entered the chart at number three. Morgan Heritage undertook a short tour, then re-entered the studio. In the process of having many of their singles remastered during the pandemic, they envisioned a release that combined vintage and new material. Teaming with some of Jamaica's and Africa's most renowned musicians and producers, they tapped Stephen and Ziggy Marley, Bounty Killer, Shaggy, Chronixx, Beres Hammond, Patoranking, Stonebwoy, and many others to assist. The set included painstakingly remastered versions of some of the group's biggest singles such as "Down by the River," "Humble" (featuring Toots & the Maytals), and "Light It Up" (featuring PelleK), alongside new tracks. Morgan Heritage was also invited by NFT (non-fungible token) pioneer Bondly to become the first reggae act to engage cryptocurrency and blockchain technology in an album campaign with exclusive pre-release bundle deals including specialty one-of-a-kind merchandise and over $10,000 in prizes. The 35-track digital set was released in May 2021, following an announcement that Morgan Heritage was exploring a move to the African country of Rwanda. Vocalist Peter "Peetah" Morgan died on February 25, 2024, at the age of 46.
© Craig Harris & Thom Jurek /TiVo


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